Sunday, December 29, 2013

Williams Sonoma Peppermint Bark

My dad buys boxes of William Sonoma Peppermint Bark every year. And every year I always tell him I can make it for much cheaper. And I never get around to doing it.

Well this year, I did it. No longer will we go broke buying Williams Sonoma bark!
williams sonoma peppermint bark recipe
The Williams Sonoma tin is so darn cute though
The key part of this recipe is tempering the chocolate. Chocolate has a crystalline structure; if you melt the chocolate and let it set randomly, it loses that structure. All chocolate you buy is tempered, which means that all those crystals are aligned.

Tempering Chocolate 101 ( from Serious Eats and David Lebovitz)
- Tempering chocolate 
   1) makes it shiny and pretty 
   2) increases the melting point
   3) causes a crisp snap when the chocolate breaks
  4) avoids blooming, when the cocoa butter rises to the surface, make it look moldy/dusty and pale, when it is no longer tempered due to heat (fat bloom) or moisture (sugar bloom). The chocolate is perfectly good, just unattractive.
- How to temper chocolate? Melt your chocolate, then add some already tempered chocolate to "seed" it, setting up the nice pattern as the melted chocolate cools down
- To avoid seizing (clumping) do not let water get into the chocolate  (oil + water = no bueno) and do not let the chocolate get too hot (this is why we chop it into small pieces)

The recipe is dependent on the quality of chocolate, and it's better to use chocolate bars rather than chips, which have less cocoa butter so they keep their shape during baking. I used Ghiradelli's baking white chocolate and Trader Joe's bittersweet chocolate.

I had no problem with the chocolates seizing or or the white and bittwersweet layers separating when breaking into pieces, but once set the white chocolate had little darker spots since I didn't temper it right. The Ghiradelli's white chocolate was also much sweeter than the Williams Sonoma version, so I'll have to keep experimenting with that.

Ingredients
12 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon peppermint oil, divided
12 oz white chocolate, chopped
5 small candycanes, crushed

Directions
Line the bottom of a cookie tray with parchment paper.

Fill a saucepan with about 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer. Put 2/3 of the chopped bittersweet chocolate in a medium glass or metal bowl and set the bowl over the simmering (not boiling) saucepan. Stir the chocolate until nearly melted. Remove from heat. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon peppermint oil and the remaining pieces of chocolate until those pieces melt. Pour evenly on parchment paper. Firmly tap the dish against the counter a few times to even it out and remove any air bubbles.

Let the chocolate set at cool room temperature for about 30 minutes before topping with white chocolate.

Bring the water in the saucepan to a simmer again and repeat the same process with the white chocolate. Once melted, carefully and evenly spread the white chocolate over the bittersweet chocolate.

Sprinkle the top with the crushed peppermint (pushing any chunks that stick out).

Allow the bark to set at cool room temperature until firm. Lift the bark from parchment paper and break into pieces.
Read More »

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Snickerdoodles

Merry Christmas! Every year it's an Uy kids tradition to cut out shapes from Pillsbury sugar cookie dough and decorate them for Santa. Of course, as we get older, our creations and artistic designs get more beautiful. Art masterpieces worthy for the Louvre.

However, none of us like sugar cookies. Especially with that icing in a tub smeared on top. And it's a shame to toss out such pretty cookies every year (foods have feelings too!). So this we we decided to try adapting my sister's snickerdoodle recipe from Allrecipes.
While digging in the pantry, we found a pastry gun, a gift from my sister's godmother ages ago. While Chef Sherbert used her gun to make these pretty cookies, Chef Hans and I were forced to hand shape ours since we couldn't use cookie cutters on the stickier snickerdoodle dough (originally meant to be rolled into balls, not Christmas shapes).

Without cookie cutters, they were very ugly. Like, back to when we were 5 years olds making Christmas cookies ugly. Not Louvre worthy, but...more modern art, so we'll submit these to the New York MoMA.

Chef Hans: God, is that a snowman you're rolling out? It's hideous.
Chef Uy: It's avante garde!

Santa deserved the best though, so here are the wreaths, flowers, and Christmas trees from the pastry gun. Alas, this year we didn't have time to decorate with icing, sprinkles, and chocolate chips.
Ingredients
1/2 cup butter softened
1/2 cup shortening (I use Crisco)
1 1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 3/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cream together butter, shortening, 1 1/2 cup white sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Blend in flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Shape dough by round spoonfuls into balls.

Mix the 2 tablespoons white sugar and cinnamon. Roll balls of dough into mixture and place 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. With the palm of your hand, flatten them slightly; otherwise, you'll end up with some undercooked cookies (we like crispy cookies).

Bake 8-10 minutes or until set. Remove immediately from baking sheets.  
Read More »

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Turtle Cheesecake

It's been four long months since B and I last saw each other in person, so I wanted to make something extra special when I got to visit him in Chicago after my exams. B still had tests since his school ended later than mine, so I had a little more free time to take care of him.

Of course, he requested cheesecake again. Turtle cheesecake was my absolute favorite when I was a kid. I smuggled this tasty pear cinnamon caramel sauce in my luggage since I've been super excited to use it.
I met B's new roommate for the first since I hadn't been to Chicago this academic year yet. B's roommate saw me baking up a storm, and told him, "You and the other guys with girlfriends are so spoiled. I wish I had a girl to bake... and clean my bathroom ...and take care of me...and do everything."

Some of B's friends have really, really devoted girlfriends, but not me, ha! I keep B in line.

*cough* Ok, I HAD to wipe his bathroom mirror. It was so dirty in every corner (which is pretty impressive to accomplish), that I couldn't even see my eye to take out my contacts. And his sink...

B: Come snuggle with me!
N: No, I must clean your mirror now! And reorganize your bathroom.
B: My girlfriend would rather clean my bathroom than kiss me *mopes*

Anyways, if you're feeling tired and feeling lazy like I was after all that cleaning, you can buy the Oreo crust from the store, and just pre-bake it. After all, who can live up to the 1950s housewife model all the time!? Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker.

Turtle Cheesecake


Ingredients
CRUST:
24 Oreo cookies, finely crushed into crumbs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

CHEESECAKE:
1 8 oz package cream cheese, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups Greek yogurt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

TOPPING:
1/3 cup half and half
1 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup pecans
caramel sauce, to drizzle
chocolate chips, to garnish

Directions
CRUST: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine Oreo crumbs and melted butter and press into the bottom and two inches up the sides of a 9-inch pie tin. Bake for 8 minutes, or until crust is firm. Remove from oven and cool completely.

CHEESECAKE: Beat together the cream cheese, Greek yogurt, and sugar until smooth. Beat the eggs one at a time, and add vanilla until well combined.

Pour the batter into the oreo crust and bake for 50 min, or until the edges are set, but the middle still jiggles a little. Do no bake till set or it will be overdone. Turn off the oven and let the cheesecake rest in the oven with the door slighly ajar. After 1 hour, remove the cheesecake from the oven and cool completely. This slow cooling helps prevent cracks (although if you're in a hurry, you can cover with topping)

TOPPING: Microwave the half and half for 1 min until very hot. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until a smooth paste to make the ganache Set the ganache aside to cool and thicken at room temperature. Spread the ganache over the top of the cooled cheesecake. Garnish with caramel sauce and chopped pecans.

Put the cheesecake in the refrigerator for several hours, or overnight before serving. Cheesecake can be refrigerated for several days or frozen.
Read More »

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Pear Goat Cheese Pizza with Caramelized Onions

This is one of my $4.50 a day food stamp challenge recipes. I decided to splurge on goat cheese – Trader Joe’s is by far the best pricewise and tastewise.

To save money, I made my own crust using this recipe from The Kitchn. Alas, my bread lately has just been failing... I don’t know why my yeast didn’t work *sadface*. I tried different two packets of yeast and no rising, even after proofing and checking the expiration.

It’s ok, the flat crust worked out still.
This pizza combo is definitely one of my favorites: the pear and goat cheese combo is just delicious (ok anything with goat cheese is amazing). Goat cheese was actually introduced to me by my lab at Stanford; my PI was a huge foodie, and our lab meeting lunches on Monday were super gourmet.

Anyways, while I was making this pizza, I had a Skype date with my good friend Thomas. He was my freshman dorm neighbor and my “Mr. Fix It.” He’s fixed my camera, my printer, my bike, my computer, you name it. He also invented some contraption out of wire hangers that he could slide under the door and hook onto the handle when people got locked out of their rooms (like me, um, during orientation week…and…* cough* many other times of freshman year). It’s very useful to have brilliant engineering friends.

It’s kind of funny how friends come and go through the years, and some, like Mr. Fix- It, just stick around forever. We're actually very different, so it's interesting how friendships work. On paper, you can’t ever quite predict who becomes lifelong friends (same city? same major? same dorm? same hobbies?), but when it happens, you just know it.

Ingredients
CRUST:
1/4 - 1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon yeast, proofed
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons rosemary
2 tablespoons olive oil

TOPPINGS:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, sliced
1/4 cup honey (or brown sugar)
1-2 pears, thinly sliced
1/2 cup goat cheese (I used Trader Joe's honey goat cheese)
1/2 cup arugula mix
black pepper, to taste

Directions
Set the oven to 500°F and let it heat for at least a half an hour before making the pizza.

Crust: Combine flour and salt. Add the water and yeast (rapid rise/instant yeast does not need to be "proofed" in water beforehand). Mix until you've formed a shaggy dough. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. The dough should still feel moist and slightly tacky. If too sticky, add flour; if too dry add water.

Let the dough rest and rise for 1 hr (optional).

Topping: In a skillet set over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and honey to the pan, stirring to coat. Continue stirring the onions every 5 minutes or so, being careful not to burn the onions. Once the onions have softened and become a deep golden brown, remove from heat and set aside.

Assembly: On a lightly floured surface, press and stretch the pizza dough into a 10-inch circle. Transfer to a pan lined with parchment paper. Rub the pizza dough evenly with olive oil and top with rosemary.

Top pizza dough with pears, goat cheese, and caramelized onions. Add mixed greens then sprinkle with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Bake the pizza 15 minutes until golden browned. Garnish with additional mixed greens.
Read More »

Monday, December 16, 2013

Cherry Orange Scones with White Chocolate Glaze

I don’t know about you, but I feel like scones are the classiest of the morning pastries. “Yes, please, I would some sugar for my English breakfast tea to accompany scones/crumpets” sounds so elegant versus “Gee, I’m super late for school again so I’m stuffin’ a muffin in my mouth.”

Actually, I had joined the 8 am “stream team” towards the end of this semester, so the latter sentence doesn’t happen too often anymore. Streaming, for my non medical student readers, means that the professors' lectures are recorded and you can play them anytime, anywhere, (and most importantly, at any speed) you want. The lecture halls are so empty now as the ranks fall one by one for the comforts of lectures playing 2x speed at home in your PJs…ah, the benefits and tragedies of technology.
 The ability to sleep in a little and eat breakfast at leisure while reading notes is admittedly very, very nice. Buuuut, I still count myself as the 15% of devout class goers, since 9 am is still early too, hehe.

I made these for the first year babies of my friend Janet, adapting Ina Garten’s amazing recipe. Janet baked these along with me; this hipster health nut girl basically eats raw fruits and veggies for all her meals, so getting her into the kitchen is pretty good.
Since these are for a group and it’s my first time making scones, I didn’t experiment too dramatically (mom says only experiment if you will/can eat all of it by yourself if it ends up bad). I reduced the sugar and added a white chocolate glaze. I was hoping the icing would be more visible. Oh well, it just became sticky scones a la sticky buns. With the glaze, the sweetness is just perfection.

Ingredients
SCONES:
4 cups plus 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 oranges, zested
3/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup cold heavy cream (or milk)
1 cup dried cherries
1 egg beaten, for egg wash

GLAZE:
1/8 cup milk
1/3 cup, white chocolate (finely chopped)

Directions
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In the bowl, mix 4 cups of flour, 1/4 cup sugar, the baking powder, salt and orange zest. Add the cold butter; using two knives, cut the butter until the butter is the size of peas.

Whisk the eggs and heavy cream/milk in another bowl and pour into the flour and butter mixture. Mix until just blended. The dough will look lumpy! Combine the dried cranberries and 1/4 cup of flour.

Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and quickly knead and divide it into 4 balls. Chill for 1/2 hour (I put mine in the freezer) until cold, so dough is easier to handle.

Brush the tops of the scones with egg wash, and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the tops are browned and the insides are fully baked. Allow the scones to cool.

For the glaze, microwave the milk until very hot. Pour over the white chocolate and stir until smooth. using a fork, drizzle glaze over scones.
Read More »

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Gentleman's Bulgogi for my Bibimbap

So my BIG End of Basic Sciences exam is tomorrow. This is the one I need to pass to make it to clinical rotations (goodbye lectures and classrooms, hello hospitals!!).

B and I haven't been able to see each other in person for over 4 months since our classes have been crazy. But he marinated this bulgogi during his last visit here waaay back in August, and I froze it to save for "later."

Well, the week of the EBSE test is the perfect time for "later."Since I've been so busy, I haven't been able to cook. A hungry Natticakes does not learn well.
I just tossed the meat in a pan and let it simmer on low for an hour so it's tender. The Korean side dishes (seaweed, sprouts, carrots, etc) are from a Korean store store, and I just fried an egg to make my own bibimbap, inspired by My Korean Kitchen.
This is the only good food I've had all week (yogurt and cereal for dinner...isn't quite the same). Good food feeds the brain, so I get smarter, right? 

Ingredients
BULGOGI:
2 lbs beef tenderloin
1 onion
2 scallions
Pepper
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoon sesame oil
3 tablespoon brown sugar
Bulgogi Marinade (look for brands without MSG)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

BIBIMBAP:
cooked rice
bean sprouts
Korean seaweed
carrots, cut into strips
shiitake mushrooms
1 egg, sunny side up or fried
hot pepper paste and sesame oil

Directions
Combine all ingredients in a zip lock bag and mix. Let the meat marinate for 24 hours minimum. Sautee on medium heat until just brown, the set on low and simmer for 1 hour.

Scoop rice in a large bowl, and display all your vegetables, bulbogi, and egg. Serve it with sesame oil and hot pepper paste.
Read More »

Monday, December 9, 2013

Pumpkin Roll

Mom has made lots of recipes over the years, but I distinctly remember a pumpkin roll drizzled with chocolate that she made one Christmas. I loved it. I devoured it. I begged (for 10+ years I might add) for her to make another one, but she never made one again. *sadface*

Recently, I realized, I could make one. Yes, I am now an independent adult (ok, as independent as one can be in medical school with no income).
The recipe from Libby's Pumpkin said it serves 10, so I double the recipe, expecting extras. This was SO not the case (unless you eat baby sized portions). I'd say the double batch serves 12, definitely, not 20. This was a little tricky to figure out how much batter to pour since I didn't have a jelly roll pan. I poured the extra batter into a smaller pan, but the little version broke when I tried to roll it...I think that one was too thick. Still tasty though!

Roll making 101
- Don't bother using a towel + powdered sugar to roll that lots of recipes say to. Just use parchment paper; so much easier (and no lint in your cake).
- Make sure the lining is completely FLAT on the pan (trim to fit INSIDE the pan), or your cake will take on any wrinkles and lumps. The batter is not heavy enough to flatten out the parchment paper if it sticks out over the pan edge.
- Roll the sponge cake when you take it out of the oven, otherwise it won't stretch and thus will crack if you try roll it after it's cooled. Roll the cake as tightly as you can.
- Let the (rolled) cake cool completely before attempting to fill it or it will crack.
- When filling, be generous, but don't fill all the way to the edge; otherwise when you roll, it will ooze out the sides (not so pretty)!
The original recipe is as sweet as heck. I took out 1/2 the sugar in the cake, took out 3/4 the sugar and 1 1/2 sticks of butter in the filling, and all my study buddies agreed it's definitely sugary enough. As my friend stated eloquently, "It's because we're Asian."

Without further ado, here is my double batched and reduced sugar adaptation!

Ingredients
CAKE:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2x 2/3 cup canned pumpkin

FILLING:
1 1/2 pkgs cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Powdered sugar (optional for decoration)

Directions
FOR CAKE:
Preheat oven to 375° F.

Line 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan with parchment paper (I used larger cookie tray with sides and baked the extra batter in another smaller pan)

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and salt in small bowl. Beat eggs and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until thick. Beat in pumpkin. Stir in flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared pan(s).

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. Immediately and carefully peel the cake from parchment paper. Dust some flour and cover top with another parchment paper. Roll up cake and parchment paper together with the narrow end. Cool in the refrigerator.

FOR FILLING:
Beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla extract in small mixer bowl until smooth. Add Greek yogurt and mix.

Carefully unroll cake. Using a sharp knife, trim the edges so it's even. Spread filling mixture over cake. Re-roll cake and refrigerate at least one hour (I recommend freezing it slightly for easier cutting). Trim off the ends of the roll and remove (translation: eat it so no one sees the ugly ends).

Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving. This cake freezes well, and can be stored.
Read More »

Friday, December 6, 2013

Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Soup with Blue Cheese

I made this soup right before going home Thanksgiving break, so I was cleaning out whatever I had in the fridge. A little bit of unused canned pumpkin, some extra blue cheese and milk, and most importantly, I had two baby butternut squashes I needed to use up.
These two were my sad Halloween gourds since I didn't have time to carve a pumpkin this year (at least I dressed up for Halloween block party so I'm not 100% lame). I drew jack-o-lantern faces on them with sharpie and they've been sitting around grinning at me for almost 3 weeks. 

Which means, time for those babies to get chopped up and eaten.
I love the taste of butternut squash, but hate hacking up them because they're like rocks.

I specifically drove to Trader Joe's in an attempt to buy frozen pre-chopped squash since they apparently have it. I looked around to no avail, then asked an employee who also scratched his head while looking, saying they usually have it.

Fifteen minutes later while I was waiting in a long line to pay for my groceries (sans pre-chopped butternut squash), that same Trader Joe's employee (who had moved to the cashier position) waved a bag and hollered out, "Miss, miss! Here's your pre-chopped butternut squash. Right here!"

I got very excited, thinking I could buy it.

He then said, "This women right here is buying the last one, so you just missed it. I just wanted you to know that." He scanned the butternut squash bag at the register, and the woman waltzed off with her prize.

Gee, thanks. Well, my jack-o-lantern butternut squash tasted great, so there.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups butternut squash, roasted
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 - 2 cups whole or 2% milk
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons rosemary
6 stalks fresh thyme
3 tablespoons blue cheese
pepper, to taste

Directions
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Peel, remove seeds and cut the butternut squash to roughly 1 inch cubes. Place on a pan with olive oil and roast about 30 to 45 minutes or until tender. Remove and let cool.

Combine squash, pumpkin, onion, milk, paprika, and cumin in a blender and puree. Add additional milk and spices to adjusted consistency and taste if necessary.

Pour the soup into a bowl, microwave for 5 min and crumble blue cheese over it. Garnish with thyme sprigs.

You can do this all over the stovetop on medium heat (which is probably more legit), but I'm letting you know what I did. After pureeing in my blender, the soup is still cold, but that's what the microwave is for!
Read More »

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thai Coconut Shrimp Soup (Tom Kha Thale)

Someone made this soup for a potluck and I just had to make it. I used shrimp but it's often made with chicken too (Tom Kha Kai). I reduced the coconut milk a little so it's lighter, as I am not a huge fan of overly creamy soups. Adapted recipe from Tyler Florence.
Lemongrass was a bit of hassle for me to find (my usual grocery "just" ran out) so I just bought extra and froze it, but it's needed to give the Thai lime flavor. In my recipe, I put what I actually used, but here are the substitutions for authentic Thai flavors.
- Galangal root = Ginger root
- Kaffir lime leaves = 5 lime zest (and bay leaves)
- Thai chilies = Sriracha sauce or another chili pepper
- Shallots = 2 cloves garlic, 1/2 red onion

Now that little basil garnish you see is all that really remains of Joe the basil from Trader Joe's. B calls me the crazy plant lady, since I love potted plants. Cut flowers make me sad since they die. Er...never mind that my potted plants die too...(hypothetically they have a chance at least!). Joe is a sweet basil; thai basil is purplish and is great for cooking since it's sturdier. Joe, indeed, is a delicate creature.

B also thinks it's weird I assign genders to my plants.

Anyways, Joe's the oldest basil I've ever had....almost 7 months now. Alas, he's shriveled up, but 2% of him still looks good and thus gets eaten. Poor Joe. He can't win.

Ingredients
3-4 cups chicken stock
5 small Thai chiles, halved lengthwise
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 4 chunks
1 stalk lemongrass, outer leaves peeled and cut into large pieces
1/2 can coconut milk
1 1/2 cups shiitake mushrooms
4 tablespoons fish sauce
4 tablespoons sugar
1 lime, juiced and zested (or kaffir lime leaves)
2 cups shrimp
salt and black pepper
1/2 cup basil

Directions
Bring the stock to a boil over medium heat in a soup pot with chiles, garlic, ginger and lemongrass,  Lower the heat to medium-low; add coconut milk, mushrooms, fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice and zest. Cover the pot and gently simmer to let the spices infuse the broth, about 30 minutes.

Uncover the pot and add shrimp, salt, pepper, and basil. Simmer until shrimp is cooked (pink), about 5-10 minutes.

Ladle the soup into a bowls (making sure to remove the lemongrass), and garnish with the basil.
Read More »

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Cranberry, Apple, and Pear Crumble

I asked Mom what dessert we were going to make for Thanksgiving this year. Thanksgiving dinner is a big deal at our house - my mom (expert cook), sister (expert baker), and I (expert, uh experimenter and mess maker) always go all out.

So when Mom nonchalantly replied, "Oh we're not going to make dessert this year because someone gave us a store bought pecan pie," I was utterly blown away by the thought of such heresy.

I might have been slightly hyper, having finished my last day of preclinical classes in med school (yup, no more classes EVER) and driving all the way home in one go with insufficient sleep (thus having had a lot of caffeine)

Chef Uy: We're not making dessert? Both Shobe and I are back home and you dare suggest we not make our own dessert??? What madness!!! What kind of Uy Thanksgiving is that??? Dessert is our middle name!!!

Of course, my sister and I fixed that no dessert problem real quick (store bought pies don't count!)
I basically took whatever we had and invented something. I've always wanted to try eating cranberries with something and adapted from this from Simply Recipes minus pie crust since I didn't want to bother with making a crust. We ran out of apples so I tossed in Asian pears as well. I really love the tartness the cranberry brings (and bonus, it prevents UTIs too). The trick to a golden crust and non soggy filling is baking it long enough.

Since it was dark, taking the photo was a nightmare but I managed to collect the last remaining light for this pic. The actual dinner was too dark (and my hungry, hungry family was telling me to hurry up so we could eat already), so those recipes will wait for another year!

Ingredients
FILLING
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 orange zest
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
18 teaspoon salt
4 apples, sliced and peeled
2 pears, sliced and peeled

TOPPING 
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
3-4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/4 cup, old fashioned oats (not instant)
1/4 cup granola
1/3 cup, walnut pieces

Directions
Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl mix sugar with flour, orange zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add cranberries, apples, and pears, and mix well. Let sit for 10 min to let juices out; drain the liquid to avoid a soggy crumble. Place filling into baking dish.

In another bowl mix brown sugar, flour, oats, granola, and walnuts. Add the butter and cut in with a pastry blender or rub with your fingers until the mixture forms small lumps. Sprinkle topping over the filling.

Set baking dish over a cookie try to catch the drippings and bake until juices bubble, 35-45 minutes. If pie browns too quickly, cover loosely with foil.
Read More »

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Strawberry Ice Cream with White Chocolate and Graham Crackers

I've wanted an ice cream machine forever but couldn't bring myself to buy one, because of
1) its unipurpose function
2) how much space it would take in my tiny kitchen cabinets and freezer
3) fact that I could have ice cream anytime and gain a zillion pounds <-- most important

Those highly logical reasons were enough to stop me.

BUT then my classmate, Jebran, starting bringing his homemade ice cream/deliciousness to school, and it was so heavenly. HE ruined store bought ice cream for me. Everything else just tastes overly sweet now.
So I borrowed his ice cream machine and made this for a class picnic. Never mind that it was the coldest day of the year. Adapted from Food.com.

Ingredients
1 pint strawberries
3 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup skim milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions
Combine strawberries and lemon juice.

In large mixing bowl beat eggs until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add 1/2 cups sugar and vanilla, mixing well. Bring heavy cream and milk to a boil on stovetop. Slowly pour hot milk into the egg mixture to cook (but not scramble) the eggs.

Add strawberries puree and mix. Pour into ice cream maker and follow manufacturer's instructions.
Read More »

Monday, November 25, 2013

Peach Chamomile Panna Cotta

Panna cotta (cooked cream) is a softly set pudding made of cream, sugar, and gelatin. There's a lot of variations; it can be a lighter and softer pudding by using milk or super rich and thick with heavy cream. Adapted panna cotta recipe and info from The Kitchn.
It's an easy and beautiful dessert: just pour and set, but you can get all fancy with layers.

I had some peaches and wanted to experiment with interesting combinations - I mixed it with chamomile and honey to make the gelee. B and my sister thought it was a weird combo when I first told them, but I liked it. You can't go wrong with fruit and tea as a refreshing combo!

To make the angled look, I just filled the glasses halfway with cream and precariously balanced the glasses in an empty egg carton in the fridge until set. Then I straighten it and add the remaining layer.
It took a lot of extra effort and time since I ran out of gelatin halfway, so the cream part didn't quite set as much as I wanted. But it still looked ok with help from the freezer (by the way, you should not actually freezing panna cotta since its texture becomes icy)

Gelatin 101
- Let gelatin sit for a few minutes in liquid so it "blooms" — the gelatin grains swell and absorb liquid. 
- Add gelatin to a warm base (if added to a cold base, it may set too quickly and not disperse evenly - hence gelatin chunks)
- The gelatin will set quickly; if it's set too early for you, just heat it up gently (it won't damage its ability to solidify) 
- It's best to add the gelatin as one of the very last steps in cooking
- The strength depends on how long, how cold, and how much gelatin powder you add

Fun fact: Panna cotta originated in Northern Italy, where the earliest recipes mention simmering the cream with fish bones (the collagen would set the cream). Yummy!
Ingredients
PANNA COTTA:
1 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons gelatin, bloomed
1 1/2 cups cream (any combination of heavy cream / half and half)
1 tsp vanilla extract

PEACH GELEE:
1 cup strong chamomile tea
1 cup peaches, pureed
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons gelatin powder

Directions
PANNA COTTA:
Let the gelatin sit in a few tablespoons of water for about 1 to 2 minutes until it "blooms." Heat the milk, cream, and sugar til it just barely boils. Add the gelatin and stir until it dissolves (don't boil it).

Whisk in the cream and any flavorings, like vanilla.  Pour into container. Refrigerate until set (to make it set an angle, lean glasses in a egg carton).

PEACH GELEE:
Bloom gelatin. Combine chamomile tea, peaches, and honey in a blender. Microwave your puree til hot, then add gelatin so it dissolves evenly. Let it chill then add to set panna cotta (you don't want it to set but you also don't want want it to melt your panna cotta). Refrigerate until set.
Read More »

Friday, November 22, 2013

Huevos Rancheros

Huevos rancheros (fried eggs with a chili sauce on corn tortillas) is a common mid-morning food on rural Mexican farms. It's a Tex-Mex breakfast you see everywhere in Texas (amazingly, adding gobs of sour cream, cheese, and lettuce is actually not really an indigenous Mexican dish)
The term Tex-Mex cuisine came up in the 1970s, and what "Mexican food" people refer to is often really Tex-Mex.

Tex Mex is characterized by heavy use of shredded cheese, meat (particularly beef and pork), refried beans (and let's not forget the very generous portions). Also, the sheer amount of carbs (think nachos, tacos, and tortilla wraps) is more Tex Mex than Mexican. Tex-Mex has imported flavors from other spicy cuisines, such as the use of cumin (an Indian spice that is not really used in traditional Mexican recipes).

Texas-style chili con carne, chimichangas and fajitas are all Tex-Mex inventions. (sources from here and here)
I picked this dish because I'm attempting the $4.50 a day diet (yes, $4.50 a day total, not per meal), which is how much you get in food stamps from the government. It's definitely hearty and filling (maybe too filling....I'm not used to eating so much carbs in one meal, hence food coma. I'm not ever gonna have so much rice, tortillas and beans in one meal again)
Corn tortillas have corn (surprise surprise), and are more versatile than flour tortillas since they can be eaten as is, or fried to make corn chips, taquitos, or hard shell tacos.  Even better they have less fat, sodium, and calories than flour. Trying to be nutritious AND economical.

Ingredients
Pico de Gallo: 
1/2 medium onion, chopped (half cup)
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes (or fresh)
1/2 avocado
2 jalapenos
fresh cilantro, chopped
chili powder, paprika, ground cumin, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

Assemble:
Olive oil
3 eggs
1/2 cup pinto beans, cooked or from can
3 corn tortillas
shredded cheese (colby jack, chedder, or mozerella)
fresh cilantro, to garnish

Directions
Combine all the ingredients for the pico de gallo. Adjust spices to taste.

Prepare the tortillas by heating them in a large non-stick skillet with olive oil on medium high.  Heat minute or two on each side until softened with pockets of air bubbles (alternatively, microwave them).

For the fried eggs, heat olive oil on the pan on high heat. Crack eggs into the skillet and cook for 5 minutes, depending on how cooked you want them.

To serve, top tortilla with beans, fried egg. Top with pico de gallo and garnish with cilantro.
Read More »

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

I have never made upside down anything before. I actually didn't really understand what "upside down" part of it was til quite recently. Basically it's caramelizing fruit in a skillet then pouring cake batter on top. Then flip it and tada! A fancy looking cake.

History digression: Pineapple upside down cake (aka pineapple glacé and pineapple skillet cake) was thought to have first appeared in the 1920s. Coincidentally, that's when canned pineapple became huge, thanks to Jim Dole's Hawaiian Pineapple Company (yep the same Dole canned fruits you see today). He canned 95% of the crop which led to a huge expansion of the canned pineapple market (source).
I've seen variations with all kinds of fruit, but pineapple is the classic one (with or without maraschino cherries)

Fun fact: The term "maraschino cherries" refers to the method of preservation. It's kinda scary how they make them - first bleach in a brine solution with sulfur dioxide and calcium chloride then soak in sugar and red food coloring/FD&C Red 40 (yikes!) And I always thought maraschino was a just type of cherry like Bing or Ranier...

I double batched the original recipe from Gourmet so it serves a lot of people, around 16-18. I cut the sugar and the topping by half (the original had way too much butter/sugar topping for me) and used a springform pan lined with foil for easier release rather than a skillet. It's a fairly dense cake, like pound cake, and the pineapple and orange combo was prefect. Alas I didn't have any rum.

This was addictingly good...I ate a lot...probably more than the first year med students whom I baked it baked for.

Ingredients
Caramalized Topping:
1 can pineapple rings in pineapple juice
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar

Cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 tablepoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange or rum extract
1 orange zested
1 cup unsweetened pineapple juice

Special equipment:
1 springform pan, lined with foil (The foil prevents leaking while baking and makes it easier to invert the cake)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Make topping:
Melt butter in skillet. Add sugar and simmer over moderate heat, stirring, until browned (~5 min). Pour caramelized sugar into a springform pan lined with foil. Arrange pineapple rings on top of sugar mixture.

Make batter:
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in one bowl.

Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in granulated sugar. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in extracts, zest, and rum.

Add half of flour mixture and stir until just blended. Add pineapple juice, then stir in remaining flour mixture, until just blended (batter may appear slightly curdled).

Pour batter carefully over pineapple topping. Bake cake until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cool. Remove the springform sides, invert cake onto plate, and peel off the foil. Serve cake just warm or at room temperature.
Read More »

Monday, November 18, 2013

Berry Charlotte

Charlottes are one of those cakes that come in all shapes, sizes and forms: bread, sponge cake or biscuits/cookies line a mold, which is then filled with a fruit puree or custard.

I made this for a girl's spa/makeover night (alas, we old med students can't handle sleepovers anymore) because I wanted a really pretty cake. I didn't have enough ladyfingers so I cut them in half and trimmed them with scissors. Although I wanted to make a really tall charlotte, this half size is still a large cake.  
The filling has a lot of flexibility so you can fill it whatever you want. I adapted the mousse from The Little Epicurean. With this healthier version you can definitely taste the yogurt, and I wasn't too guilty about eating it for breakfast. Next time I might make the mousse a little richer with eggs and firm it up with more gelatin.

Creams 101
- Custard is any liquid thickened by coagulation of egg proteins. The consistency depends on the ratio of eggs to liquid, whether whole eggs or just yolks are used, and the type of liquid used
- Pudding is a a liquid thickened with cornstarch
- Pastry Cream is custard + pudding (thickened with cornstarch and eggs)
- Bavarian cream is similar to pastry cream but thickened with gelatin instead of flour/cornstarch, and flavored with liqueur. Bavarian cream is lightened with whipped cream when on the edge of setting up, before being molded. It is chilled until firm, then turned out onto a serving plate.
- Crème anglaise is a light pouring custard used as a dessert cream or sauce
- Mousse is a pudding that is combined with whipped cream or egg whites. Mousse can deflate so its light and airy texture may be stabilized with gelatin.
I held my breath when removing the springform sides, but it stayed up nicely. I had a lot of fun taking these pictures. Tying the satin ribbon was the hardest part out of the entire charlotte making process but I managed to get it eventually.

I confess the best part of making any labor intensive dessert is always the gasps of admiration and excitement. That (and an empty plate) always makes any chef feel proud.

Ingredients
Ladyfingers, cut in half

Berry Mousse:
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups plain yogurt
1 1/2 envelopes gelatin (~4 1/2 tablespoons)
4 tablespoons cold water
1 cup berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries)
1/2 cup berry jam

Gelatin Glaze:
4 tablespoons cold water
1/2 envelope gelatin, bloomed
1/4 cup berry jam
1/2 cup berries, pureed

Directions
Mousse: Whip heavy cream and sugar to stiff peaks. Gently fold yogurt into mixture.

Fill a small bowl with ice cold water to bloom gelatin for 3-5 minutes. Puree berries with a blender. Place soft gelatin into strawberry puree. Microwave mixture 10 seconds at a time until gelatin has melted; ensure the gelatin is mixed well. Let cool (the gelatin should not be warm, but it should not be set).

Add cooled berry puree and berry jam to the whipped cream and yogurt mixture. Mix until combined.

Assembly: Cut ladyfingers in half with scissors and arrange along the perimeter of a springform pan. Pour berry yogurt mousse evenly in the springform pan, inside the center of the ladyfingers.

Place in refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes (or longer) while you prepare jelly glaze.

Gelatin Glaze: Bloom gelatin in the water for 3-5 minutes. Combined with berry jam and pureed berries; microwave mixture for 10 seconds at a time until gelatin is dissolved. Let cool to room temperature. Pour on top of chilled mousse. Chill for several hours or overnight.
Read More »

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thai Fish Baked in Banana Leaf and Coconut Rice

Before there was foil...there were banana leaves! Banana leaves are commonly used in a lot of Asian/Southwest Asian and Latin American countries to wrap savory and sweet foods, sealing moisture and giving a fragrant flavor.

They're cheap in Asian markets and I keep them frozen indefinitely until I decide to use them. I had only used them for decoration once, so I was excited to actually cook with them for the first time (adapted from this Fish recipe)
The key to this tilapia dish is the sauce...I marinated mine overnight for maximum flavor. You can make a huge batch of sauce in the blender and freeze it too so it's ready whenever you want.
Wrapping can be a little tricky without toothpicks; I folded the leaves under the fish to keep it wrapped. If you want to be really hardcore, you can make the leaves into boats. Before serving, run the leaves under boiling hot water to get that lovely green color.

Fun fact: Banana leaves contain polyphenols, a chemical also found in green tea. Additionally, they also contain polyphenol oxidase, an enzyme that produces L-DOPA (for you nerds, you can read in this scientific article here) the same drug used in treating for Parkinson's disease.

Thai Fish Baked in Banana Leaf

Ingredients
4-5 fillets tilapia
1 package banana leaves  (or foil)

Coconut Marinade:
1 shallot
2 cloves garlic
1 thumb-size piece ginger, sliced
ground coriander (or cumin and fennel)
basil leaves
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1/2 can coconut milk
2 kaffir lime leaves or 1 tsp. lime zest
1 fresh red chili, sliced
chili powder
juice of 1/2 lime

Preparation
Blend all marinade/sauce ingredients in a blender. Place fish fillets in a large bowl and cover with half the marinade (save the other half). Let it marinate in the refrigerator at least 1 hour (I did mine overnight).

When fish is done marinating, spread a banana leaf cut approximately 1 foot square. Place one fillet in the center of the leaf. Fold both sides of the wrapping material over the fish, then fold both ends to create a square "packet." Turn it seam-side down to keep sides from opening. Do the same for all the fillets.

Place packets in a glass casserole dish or cookie tray (to catch the drippings in case packets leak) and bake for 15-20 min at 350 degrees, until cooked (flesh will be opaque).

To serve, plunge banana leaves for plating in hot water to turn them bright green, and place fish on top. Warm the remaining curry sauce/marinade and spoon over the fish. Garnish with basil.

Coconut Rice
Since I had coconut juice lying around, this rice was the perfect accompaniment. It's sweet, so of course I'd like it. The toasted coconut gives a nice crunch.

As a note since I use a rice cooker, I don't really use exact measurements. I put my cup of rice in the rice cooker and I fill to the 1 to 1 1/2 line with a random ratio of coconut milk/juice.

Ingredients
1 cup white rice
1 1/4 cup coconut juice
1/2 cup coconut milk
dry shredded coconut, toasted (I used sweetened)

Stovetop: Put rice, coconut juice, and coconut milk on a pot on medium heat. Stir occasionally to prevent burning.  Cook until done. Garnish with additional toasted coconut.

Rice Cooker: Put rice, coconut juice, and coconut milk on a pot on medium heat and cook until done. Garnish with additional toasted coconut.
Read More »

Friday, November 8, 2013

Tortang Talong (Eggplant Omelette)

Whenever mom asks me what I want when I come home, eggplant torta is always on the list. Mom has this recipe from a really ancient spiral cookbook with a Filipino dish for everyday of the year.

Ok mom just pointed out I always request the same three dishes over and over again... hey childhood food is nostalgic! Although science says the olfactory sense is the most connected with memory (limbic system! neuro pathways!), I think it's the gustatory sense for me hehe. 

I didn't think this was a well known dish, just a random mom's home cooking style recipe, but it apparently pops right up in the google search bar when you type "eggplant torta." In Filipino dishes, torta is basically an omelette stuffed with anything. 
To make this dish you 1) cook the eggplant by roasting it (or boiling like mom does) and then 2) cooking the eggplant in an egg and pork batter. 

Normally you leave the cap of the eggplant on so you can see the eggplant, but the eggplant I had was so large mom chopped it off.

Oh and you HAVE to eat this with Filipino Sweet Chili Sauce. Man, that stuff is addicting.  

Ingredients
2 medium eggplants
salt and pepper
oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small onion, chooped
1/2 lb ground pork
2-3 eggs
all purpose flour of breadcrumbs

Directions
Boil eggplants until soft or roast in the oven until brown at 450 degrees. Season with salt and pepper

In a skillet, heat oil and saute garlic, onions, and tomatoes. Add ground pork and cook until brown. Season to taste. Add two eggs and blend well.

Divide the mixture into 2 and spread over the eggplants. Coat with more beaten egg then cover with flour/breadcrumbs. Fry until set and golden brown.
Read More »

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Mini Green Tea and Chocolate Mousse Cakes

I've always wanted to make something with matcha, but I had such difficulty finding it (well, finding it at a reasonable price - my aunt in Dallas found it for $99 a lb which is way beyond budget). Thus, I was ecstatic when my friend Cecilia wanted to bake and said she had a huge bag of green tea powder from her mom.

I suggested chocolate green tea mousse cake. But for such a tasty combination, it's not very common; finding recipes was quite difficult, and the few recipes I did see used the metric measurement system, so I ended up inventing my own recipe.

The mousse is adapted from Food.com, but I definitely changed it up as I went along (*cough* I made a mistake with the proportions but fixed it without anyone knowing *cough*)

I'm pretty sure our green tea powder wasn't matcha grade, but it still tasted great. And it definitely beats my original plan of grinding up tea leaves ripped from tea bags. Either way, green tea is healthy and full of antioxidants!

So what is this mysterious matcha?
- Matcha is fine powder green tea
- Preparing matcha starts several weeks before harvest; the tea bushes are covered to prevent direct sunlight. Shade causes the leaves to turn a darker shade of green and make amino acids. The leaves are laid out flat to dry and crumble, becoming tencha (碾茶), which is stone ground to the fine, bright green, talc-like powder known as matcha.

Matcha is definitely expensive, especially if it's higher grade. Grading is based on

- Location on the tea bush (top of the bush is highest grade)
- Treatment before processing (no sunlight) and stone grinding
- Oxidation (avoid exposure oxygen or it can turn a dull brownish green color)
Isn't this Tokyo plate super cute?!
I would like to get paper collars so I could make the layers even higher. Also, chilling the mousse longer would stabilize it more, but we were so eager to decorate and eat it, we took it out after less than an hour (hence the squashed appearance). 

I was SO happy when I cut the cake and could see all the layers nicely defined. And I may or may not have eaten the cake in one day...
Ingredients
Chocolate Cake (from Chocolate Birthday Cake Recipe) - 1/2 batch my recipe for 3 mini cakes

Green Tea Mousse:
1 tablespoon gelatin, powder
4 tablespoons water
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups full fat milk
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons matcha green tea powder

Directions
Cake: Bake the cake in each mini springform pan (3) and let cool while preparing the mousse.

Mousse: Dissolve gelatine powder in 4 tbsps of water and set aside.

Beat egg yolks and sugar in a bowl. Heat milk in a pan and dissolve the gelatine in the milk. Gradually add the hot milk to the egg mixture to temper. Add egg and milk back to the saucepan and stir over stovetop with cornstarch to thicken (watch carefully, you don't want the eggs to scramble). Cool the mousse in an ice water bath, stirring constantly. Add the green tea and mix well.

Whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks. Fold 1/2 of the whipped heavy cream in the green tea mousse mixture. Save the other 1/2 of the whipped cream for the third layer of the mousse (add sugar if desired).

Assembly: Carefully pour the mousse into the springform pan on top of the chocolate layer. Chill in the refrigerator (or freezer) for several hours to set. Once mousse is set, add whipped cream layer on top for the 3rd layer. Dust with matcha green tea power or coca powder.
Read More »

Friday, November 1, 2013

Nutella Stuffed Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Men are simple creatures.

Chef Uy:  I want to send you a care package! What do you want? 
B: Can I have chocolate chip cookies?
Chef Uy: But that's so... simple. I wanna make something fancy!
B: Simple is good! You can't go wrong with classic chocolate chip cookies!

Ok so these are a teensy bit fancier than your average chocolate chip cookies for two reasons.

First, I browned the butter. You need to watch your butter closely as it heats up... nothing happens for a long time, than BAM, browned butter spontaneously arises. Usually butter is creamed with the sugar for fluffiness- but this butter is melted, so I'm not sure how it changes the end result. The nutty browned butter smells is quite spectacular though.

Secondly, these chocolate chip cookies are stuffed with Nutella (cappuccino Nutella to be exact!). It's really messy to "stuff" the cookies and the Nutella did not stay inside nicely. Some tips are to really flatten out the cookie dough before wrapping the Nutella, chill the dough and Nutella, and don't make them huge.

The cookies were an interesting texture; more like a shortbread than a classic cookie for some reason, neither crispy (how I like it) nor soft and chewy (how B likes it), so I'm not too sure what happened with the cookie part. Adapted from Ambitious Kitchen

PS. Next time I would definitely add more Nutella and chocolate chips. 
PPS. Post office prices for shipping anything is really quite outrageous these days!

Ingredients
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/8 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 jar of Nutella, chilled in refrigerator

Directions
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

Optional Step: To brown butter (step by step directions with photos here), melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly. The butter will begin to foam and eventually brown on the bottom of the saucepan; keep whisking and remove from heat as soon as the butter turns brown (you'll see brown particles on the bottom and smell a nutty aroma). Set aside to cool.

Shortcut: You can also just use room temperature butter and proceed to the next step

With an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients slowly and beat until just combined. Add chocolate chips.

Chill your dough in the refrigerator for a few hours (or freezer to speed things up if you're impatient like me).

Tip: Chilled dough (and Nutella) is easier to handle

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Once dough is chilled measure about 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball. Flatten the dough ball very thinly into the palm of your hand. Place 1 teaspoon of chilled Nutella in the middle and fold dough around it; gently roll into a ball. Place dough balls on cookie sheet, 2 inches apart and flatten gently.

Bake the cookies 10-12 minutes or until the edges of the cookies begin to turn golden brown. They will look a bit underdone in the middle, but will continue to cook once out of the oven. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets after a few minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Read More »

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cream Puffs / Profiteroles

Cream puffs are choux ("cabbage" in French) pastry filled with whipped cream, pastry cream, or ice cream and they supposedly originated in Renaissance France and Italy. I looked around for the difference between cream puff vs profiteroles but couldn't find a consensus.

But for how fancy these look, these aren't hard to do (I know I say that about all these recipes, but these really look gourmet...it's French after all)

When choux pastry is cooked, it rises and should have a hollow center (no wet, unbaked batter). My batter seemed a little thin but they still puffed up nicely. It was easy to use a knife to cut through the pasty. With the dusted powdered sugar, it looks magical. I was going to top with with chocolate ganache, but mine seized, alas, so it wasn't photography worthy (but chocolate makes everything tastes better of course)
This recipe was supposed to more/smaller cream puffs, but that's not as fun...each of these cream puffs are GINORMOUS. Recipe from Joy of Baking

Ingredients
Choux Pastry (Makes 9 huge or 12 normal sized cream puffs):
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon granulated white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup water
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated white sugar, or to taste

Directions
Choux Pastry: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl whisk together the flour, sugar and salt.

Place the butter and water in a heavy saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat; add the flour mixture and stir until combined to form a dough. With a mixer, beat on low speed to release the steam from the dough (about a minute). Once the dough is lukewarm slowly start adding the lightly beaten eggs and continue to mix until you have a smooth thick paste (dough will fall from a spoon in a thick ribbon).

Spoon mounds of dough onto the baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Continue to bake for a further 25 minutes or until the shells are golden brown and when split, are almost dry inside. Turn the oven off, poke a couple of holes in each puff with a toothpick and let the shells completely cool and dry out (important for preventing collapsing).

Whipped Cream: In a large mixing bowl combine the whipping cream, vanilla extract, and sugar and whip the cream until stiff peaks form.

Assembly: Split the pastry shells in half and fill/pipe with whipped cream. Place the top half of the pastry shell on the whipped cream and dust with powdered sugar.
Read More »

Friday, October 25, 2013

Watercress and Pork Rib Soup

The cool thing about food blogging is that you find all sorts of fun facts. I always thought watercress soup was one of mom's random home cooking, but it turns out that it's a Hawaiian dish too. I also saw interesting variations with dates and wolfberries, but this version here is foolproof combo of meat, veggies, and tofu. Another good one pot dish for the hungry/busy med student.
Boiling meat breaks down tough connective tissues between the muscle fibers. This results in the beef shrinking, tenderizing and soaking up the flavor and spices of the cooking liquid. Yum. And meat on bone is always the best. They say 'the nearer the bone, the sweeter the meat' - it's because the fat in the marrow escapes into the meat when you heat it. 

I'm terrible with cooking meat because of my impatience. Don't boil it too high for too long in an effort to shortcut the time or the meat will toughen; simmer on low for a long time to keep the meat tender. 

Ingredients
1 lb pork ribs
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
water
salt and pepper, to taste
1 package firm tofu, cubed
1 bunch watercress, ends trimmed, then roughly cut

Directions
Boil pork ribs along with garlic and onions in large soup pot with enough water to cover the ribs in high for about 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Lower heat, add tofu, and simmer (with lid partially closed) on low for 60 min. Add watercress and simmer another 20 minutes. Serve with rice.
Read More »

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Boba Tea

Chef Uy: What do you think of when you think of boba?
Hans: Those "choking hazard, do not let children eat unsupervised" signs on the bags.

Well then, I suppose that avoids any lawsuits.

Anyways, I wanted to make boba for a potluck and remembered my mom used to make them. She just boiled them for 5-10 minutes and voila, easy boba! I bought a bag from Chinatown, which had zero instructions. You can see where this is going...
Excuse the scattered hematology/oncology and cardiology notes
Attempt 1: 
Chef Uy dumps pearls into pot of water as it's heating up. Chef Uy realizes the boba won't be tender and chewy for the potluck if they sit overnight. Chef Uy calls B in a panic "should I leave them half boiled and finish tomorrow... or boil them all the way and let them be hard?" B says "freeze them." Undecided, Chef Uy turns the stove off...then on...then off...

While Chef Uy confusedly pondering what to do, the pearls disintegrate and congeals into one massive pot shaped boba.

Attempt 1.5
Chef Uy tests "presoaking pearls." Pearls disintegrate in cold water into a powdery mess.

Attempt 2: 
Chef Uy realizes pearls needed to be adding AFTER water is already boiling. She adds pearls and gets ready for potluck party by showering. While on high heat, pearls on bottom burn to a crisp.

Attempt 2.5: 

Chef Uy removes burnt pearls. Chef Uy ultimately realizes these pearls are not instant, but the traditional kind which takes 2 hrs to cook. Chef Uy has to bring half cooked pearls to potluck and continues cooking at party for another 1 hr, stirring vigorously. Pearls are no longer round, but sheared like RBC shistocytes, because Chef Uy's big biceps stirred them too violently.

Attempt 3
Success... except pearls don't show up in photographs because they're clear.
Kawaii coasters are the roommate's (from Taiwan!)
Ahem, yes the straws are stolen from the local boba shop
Although during his ordeal, I swore I would only get instant boba next time, after eating the "real boba," you can't compare. As a bonus, this kind of boba seems to keep much longer and doesn't harden in the fridge for several days!

Ingredients
2 cups water
1/4 cup boba (non instant)
1/4 cup brown sugar / honey (to taste)

Directions
Boba: Add 2 cups of water for every 1/4 cup of boba in a pot. Add honey/sugar to taste. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the boba and continue boiling until they have expanded (~20 min)

Turn the heat to medium and cook the boba for 60-90 minutes. Add water if necessary and stir occasionally. When the pearls are clear (no more white starch) they are done. Turn heat off, cover, and let the pearls sit for another hr to continue cooking and cool.

Pour the prepared tea into a tall glass and add the boba.

Boba 101 Notes:
- Use a large and shallow is better for even cooking (so pearls are one layer)
- Even if the center isn't fully cooked all the way (still a white dot in the center), once the outside is really soft, you can stop cooking. The texture will be soft enough
- Stir as little as possible (just enough that they don't stick) to avoid
 breaking the boba
I- t's better to let the boba simmer for a long time rather than blast with high heat to speed up/shortcut the process. Patience...

Drink ideas
Milk Tea Boba: Prepare a strong cup of black tea. Add almond milk and honey.
Chai Tea Boba: Prepare a strong cup of chai tea. Add condensed milk, milk, and cinammon.
Green Tea Boba: Prepare a strong cup of green tea. Add honey and/or mint leaves.
Mango Shake Boba
Red Bean Shake Boba

Read More »

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pavlova

Pavlovas are a merengue dessert from Australia and New Zealand named after a famous Russian ballerina. Every time I hear the name, I think of Pavlov's dogs (psych anyone?). The fluffy texture is awesome, like a giant marshmallow. 

This is a pretty easy recipe (from Joy of Baking) but looks super impressive when assembled. One important tip is to let your eggs come to room temperature; when they're warm, they whip much faster. I made that mistake and had to beat my cold egg whites forever. The vinegar acidity helps stabilize the merengue. 
Do note that that baking time is long (>1 hr) because you're baking at such a low temperature to dry out the merengue, plus you have to let it sit in the oven even longer so plan accordingly.

Ingredient
Pavlova:
4 large egg whites
Scant 1 cup superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white vinegar (or lemon juice)
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch

Topping:
Whipping cream
Fruit

Directions
Pavlova: Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the sugar and beat until the meringue holds very stiff and shiny peaks.

Tip from Joy of Baking: Test if the sugar is fully dissolved by rubbing a little of the meringue between your thumb and index finger. The meringue should feel smooth, not gritty fro the sugar particles)

Beat in the vanilla extract, vinegar, cornstarch. Spread the meringue in two circles on the parchment paper.  Form a slight dip in the center of the meringue to hold the whipped cream and fruit.

Bake for 60 to 75 minutes until the outside is dry and a pale cream color. Turn the oven off, and with the door slightly open, let the meringue cool completely in the oven.

The cooled meringue can be stored in a cool dry place, in an airtight container, for a few days. Just before serving gently place the meringue onto a serving plate. Layer with whipped cream and fruit. Serve immediately (this does not keep well)
Read More »

Monday, October 14, 2013

Chicken Tinola

Tinola is a Filipino soup with chicken, fish sauce, and green papaya. And ginger. Lots of ginger. There's many meat and vegetable variations; but the one mom cooks has chicken, carrots, and tomatoes.

Green papayas are just unripe papayas (like green mango). Apparently papayas grow in Texas just fine since a family friend gave it to us. In this recipe you can substitute chayote, a similar squash, as well.

Fun facts from Wikipedia: 
"Both green papaya fruit and the tree's latex are rich in papain, a protease used for tenderizing meat and other proteins. "
"The latex concentration of unripe papayas are speculated to cause uterine contractions, which may lead to a miscarriage. Papaya seed extracts in large doses have a contraceptive effect on rats and monkeys, but in small doses have no effect on the unborn animals."

A one pot meal is efficient enough for any med student
Ingredients
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
ginger
4 chicken thighs, cut in pieces
2 tbsp patis (fish sauce) and/or soy sauce
3-4 cups water
1 green papaya, peeled and cubed
3-4 carrots

Directions
With the olive oil, saute the garlic, onion, ginger, and chicken in hot oil, cooking until chicken is browned. Add patis/soy sauce and water. Bring to boil.

Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer until chicken is tender, about 20-30 minutes. Add papaya and carrots about halfway in (15 min), which can be adjusted depending on how well cooked you want the vegetables. Add additional patis/soy sauce to taste.
Read More »

Monday, October 7, 2013

Baltimore Crab Cake

When I was younger, I never liked crab cakes much. But when I started going to fancy restaurants, they always had it as an appetizer and I thought I should learn to eat them to be fancy too. They're ok for me, but B adores them. During his birthday dinner when we ordered and got two tiny cakes, I decided, ok, I'm gonna learn to make them and save some money
Some commenters stated that real Baltimore crab cakes (whatever that means) don't have jalapeno, but I personally like the kick.

Shaping them into the patties and keeping them from falling apart can be a pain. Refrigerating them definitely helps hold the shape together better. Frying is tricky (I'm actually not sure if I cooked them all the way through, but I didn't want to burn the outside), so next time I may bake them.
Actually, next time, I may not bother shaping them period and just stir fry the whole batter. It tastes awesome regardless of shape.

I didn't have enough mayo, but some plain yogurt did the trick; I might sub that all the time from now on. This recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit.

Ingredients
1/4 cup mayonnaise/ pain yogurt
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 lime, juice plus wedges for garnish
1 1/2 teaspoons seafood seasonings
1 jalapeño, finely chopped
1 pound crabmeat (canned)
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), divided
lettuce/spinach
vegetable oil, for frying

Directions
Whisk first 7 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add crab, then stir in 1/2 cup panko. Divide into 6 equal portions. Form each into 1"-thick patties. Refrigerate for 1 hr. Line a platter with leaves.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place remaining 1/2 cup panko on a plate. Coat cakes with panko. Fry until golden brown and crisp, 3-4 minutes per side. Arrange atop lettuce; serve with lemon wedges.

Read More »

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Overnight Oats

To make overnight oats, you stir oatmeal, milk, and yogurt together and let it sit overnight in the fridge. I think it's a "thing" that exploded the past year; now it's all over Pinterest and Reddit. 
B first told me about ages ago because it's really a easy on-the-go, already prepared breakfast for when you're rushing to school. I told him that sounded gross and soggy. I despise soggy anything; the oats in my oatmeal are dry and practically raw when I eat it, and I always eat cereal and milk separately because even a few minutes of sitting on milk ruins the texture for me. 

Well, one year later, I finally tried this overnight oats thing, expecting gross, soggy slop. 

I was wrong. It's delicious and fluffy. You win this round, B.

Ingredients
1/2 cup steel cut oats
1/3 cup milk or almond milk
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
cinammon
black sesame seeds
1/2 berries

Directions
Combine oats, milk,  yogurt, and cinnamon (adjust milk to desired consistency). Set in fridge overnight. The next morning, top with berries and sesame seed.
Read More »